Only 67 But Stuck on 70!


Only 67…But Stuck on 70!

So here's the whole story: Coletta left early Friday morning, picked up Aunt Virginia in McLean and headed to the lake. I hung around waiting for Sade to get out of school and we headed West in the Stealth. Now I know it is a 26-year-old car and has 266,000 miles on it, but the Z is 42 with 216,000 and both are reliable vehicles. I just put $2000 in the Stealth last year in anticipation of selling it, but when the Audi went South (literally) on us, we decided to keep the Stealth as our everyday driver.

So we breeze across the three bridges and head north on 97 with the usual congestion, but it was early (2:45) so it wasn't crazy yet. We hit the Baltimore Beltway, and head out on Route 70 West moving with a lot of traffic but moving. About two hours into the trip, just past Frederick we are climbing the mountain into Myersville when we hit stop & go traffic. Bad enough with a car with automatic transmission, but with a hydraulic clutch it's clutch shift clutch shift clutch shift. At some points I just kicked her into neutral and free-wheeled then clutch in and first and vroom. On one of these movements I put the clutch in, but the gear shift was locked. It would not go into gear and the clutch pedal was all the way to the floor and not coming back UP again.

So here I was sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in the far left lane (where else?) stopped dead in the road. Fortunately we were on a hill (mountain) so I had Sade motion the car behind me to go around and I backed down the hill pulling off the travel lane. People were pleased. I was not. I tried some starting in first gear stuff, you know r-r-r-r jumping, but no second gear and no way to disengage the engine in the STOP and GO traffic when it stopped. I just pulled back off the road again off the travel lane. We were not moving without a tow truck.

Within several minutes a State Cop pulled in behind, I explained the situation and he offered to call a tow truck or gave me the option to call one. He made it clear if HE called one it would cost me lot more, so I agreed to get on the phone. Luckily we both had reception so I checked Yellow Pages App while Sade called mom to tell her we would be little late. Mom offered to come get us, but we were two hours out and three more to go, so we told her to stay put and wait for our call.

Tow Truck , Tow Truck Anyone got a Tow Truck?

Now then...it's Friday. Memorial Day weekend. First weekend of summer. You would THINK with all the traffic that tow trucks would be lined up like taxis at Kennedy Airport on a Holiday. We ( and I say "we" because both Sade and I were calling every tow truck listed within a ten-mile radius) called and came up empty until finally found one in Frederick about ten miles back, Bussard's Service Station and Towing Company. The proprietor said he would send out his guy and asked my location and my phone in case the tow truck dude got lost. I had to laugh. When the Audi died in South Carolina, I had to wait for "Bubba" to show up with his rollback, now here I am waiting for a Bussard, circling the highway looking for a Stealth lying dead on the side of the road.

Once "Butch" showed up he hooked up the Stealth, rolled her on board and told us to hop in. He had his flashers on, lots of them and despite State laws that make it a chargeable offense to fail to yield to an Emergency Vehicle with FLASHING LIGHTS, not to mention you're supposed to move over a lane (HA in this traffic?). We waited for five minutes before he just muscled his way in, made his way to the turn through and headed back East towards Frederick where the head Bussard perched off Route 40. I asked Butch where he was taking us and he told us Bussards could work on it for me (good news) probably not until Tuesday though (bad news).

"Looks like we're going to need a rental vehicle," I told Sade curled up in the back seat and we started with Enterprise. "WE PICK YOU UP!" Apparently not on weekends! Even Memorial Day Weekends. Out of the four, not a one was open. By the time we pulled into Bussards and dropped off the Stealth, Mr. Bussard told Butch he'd settle up with him next week, just add it to my repair bill. He headed off in search of new customers with old cars.

Bussard's Roost

Mr. Bussard also told me no chance of doing anything until Tuesday, and had me sign a paper promising payment and assurance they would call me with an estimate before performing any work of a major cost. I asked him if he knew any Car Rental Agencies close by and he gave me a few. None rented cars. Once again both Sade and I went through the list; Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Dollar Rent-a-Car (I called them and the lady who answered the phone said, "Dollar Tree." "Dollar Tree!? This is listed as Dollar Rent-a-Car in the Yellow Pages App!" I told her. "I don't know what app you’re talking about, but we don't rent no cars, we just sell stuff for one dollar." So much for that.

We called at least 15-20 possibilities and other than a limousine service no one came through. One moron with Direct Car Rental had something available, but didn't know where he was located?! He put me on hold while he found out. By the time he came back on the line I was on hold for six (6) minutes and he told me ,"Nope we don't have any cars available they're all out." Hung up on him I did.

After many more calls Sade and I both had the same idea. How about U-Haul. So we called and YES they had a pick-up truck available "Terrific!" I exclaimed, if it has four wheels and an engine I will take it." She put me on hold, only to come back two (2) minutes later to tell me that was already promised to another customer, did I want a Cargo Van. What is a cargo van? "Well, it's like a regular van, but no seats, just a huge cargo area in back. $19.95 a day plus tax and mileage fees." "I'll take it."

I had to give her my credit card number to reserve it, though I told her I was only ten minutes away and had no other way of completing my journey. Next challenge: how to get from Bussards to U-Haul. But THAT is for another story on another day. Tomorrow.

Part Two- Stuck at Bussards

So here we were, the Stealth safely parked in Bussard's service station filled to the brim with luggage for our trek to the lake, the only rental available in a 10 mile radius a U-Haul "Cargo Van" and now to figure out how to get from Bussard's to U-Haul who don't pick you up. With "Butch" our tow truck operator on the road and the owner of Bussard's the only one on duty in the gas station, we had to fend for ourselves. I said, "Uber?" and Sade said she had the App, but did they support this new age travel way out here in Frederick? I looked out the window of the office, and seeing a gray pick up truck and a few motor cycles thought, hmmm, maybe the truck guy can give us a ride. I sent Sade since how can anyone turn down a cute little gal in distress? He did. He was support team for the two bikes , so he had to stay with them, sorry.

Howard and Barbara

Next customer a family. I saw a dad with a ten-year-old girl walking her to the restroom door on the side of the station. I sent Sade to her task. She came in, "They said they'd be glad to help." I thanked Mr. Bussard, signed the paper and walked out to meet our drivers. Turns out they had a 7 passenger van, and there were five of them. Perfect! The dad got in back with his daughter and invited Sade to join them, the mom took the passenger seat as she was coaching their son who was on his learner's permit (what did we get ourselves into? At least they weren't satanists), and directed me to sit in the middle seat next to a family friend, a young man who they were taking along with their son to a soccer tournament in Columbia. They were heading in the opposite direction we had been traveling. They were from Pittsburgh.

So we rode with Howard and Barbara using GPS to guide us. Sade loaded the address on her iPhone and handed it to me and I handed it to Barbara before we pulled out onto the highway. It presently froze. The battery was down from all the calling etc. Barbara loaded the address on her phone. Barbara's phone said it was a 10 minute ride, or shall I say it SHOWED it was a 10 minute ride, because it was silent. I rely on the moving maps on my Google Map App, but I need Victoria's soothing voice to walk me through the turns. Barbara was trying to walk her son through the turns, but a novice driver not confident in DRIVING much less NAVIGATING was struggling. I asked Barbara if her App had voice, "Well it did until I loaded my Blue Tooth and it stopped talking me through the maps."

I loaded the address to the U-Haul center and started to let Barbara's son hear the directions as well as see them. They had this little iPhone holder on the dash stuck in the air vent (I have one, they are great) so she pulled hers out and put mine in. Now we were making time. That is until he took a hard right and the holder with the cell phone fell off the dash and ended up under the driver's feet. Barbara quickly unbuckled to rescue the iPhone and holder and we made it to the U-Haul center. We thanked them and I told her I was a former school psychologist and author as I handed her my card (in way of explanation of the Newtown's Tree's cover on the front of the card). "Oh, I'm a clinical psychologist!" How cool. Thanks to Howard and Barbara and the boys and their daughter wherever you are!

We walked into the center to fill out the papers for the Cargo Van, and that is when they told me that the "mileage fees" were...ready for this 79 cents per mile! She asked me how far I was going and I googled Frederick to Mt. Storm and it was 138 miles or 280 miles round trip plus the three days charge of $19.95, over $300 for the weekend! I asked if there was a one-way rate and she informed me that they did not allow the Cargo Vans to go out on one way, only local. Here we were halfway to the lake, over the proverbial barrel, so I signed the papers (they already had my card number) and headed out to the Cargo Van. The van was big enough to an entire room full of furniture or even a Smart Car. I climbed in fired her up and Googled our way back to the Bussard station to off load the Stealth. Funny thing: Emblazoned across the Van’s windshield? RENT ME ONE WAY OR LOCAL! Fake news?

Back to Bussard's

We found Bussard's, parked next to the Stealth went in to get the key and off-loaded suit cases, brief cases, and baskets loaded with stuff for the lake. And off we went. Traffic was quite heavy now since it was now after 8:00 (six hours after we left for a four hour trip). I decided to take Alternate 40 a parallel road to avoid the traffic on 70. The windshield on the van was filthy. And huge. I felt like I was driving a Greyhound Bus with windows to the world. Dirty windows. I activated the washers, and realized that the grunge was on the INSIDE of the windshield. It was getting dark and the oncoming headlights lit up all the dust and dirt, I was determined to stop at the next gas station to clean the windshield which I did. I grabbed one of those things with a sponge on one side and squeegee on the other, dipped it into the fluid and stepped up into the cab while Sade watched incredulously while I sponged and squeegeed the windscreen. "DAD!" It did a nice job actually with a little excess water on the huge dash. "How are you going to dry the mess, Dad, there's no paper towels?' "Watch me," I declared as I went into the station and asked the owner if he had any paper towels. He kindly produced a roll from the bathroom and tore off a few sheets which I used to dry the windshield and dashboard. Ready to go!

Meet Me in Bel Air

I decided to figure out a half-way point, one Coletta could meet us at, to park the 79 cents a mile van to save miles and money. We were about 45 minutes from our half way spot in the trip (Hancock) where we stop for dinner, so we called Coletta to stay tuned we would call when we got to "Park and Dine."

I looked at my watch, ooo it was 8:35, we had been on the road for a half hour and I wondered if Park and Dine would till be open when we arrived around 9:00. I had Sade call them and they closed at 9:00. Could we make it by then? She handed me the phone and I explained our dilemma, and the waitress was quite nice, if I could place my order now, and pay when we arrived to close down the cash register, we could get there in time to eat. I asked for a burger with fried onions and lettuce and tomato with fries and coffee, and handed the phone to Sade who ordered...wait for it...Chicken Tenders and fries.

The Conclusion, "Meet me at DaVinci's!"

Sade was laughing at her dad for calling a restaurant on the fly, spinning out the sad saga of our trip so far, and telling them how we always stop at Park and Dine on our way to West Virginia and usually make it there well before closing time, would they still feed us if we made it there before closing. They took our orders and we rolled in at 8:50. We had our coffee in minutes and our meals in a few more. We did not dawdle so as not to keep the wait staff any longer on a Friday night.

I called Coletta, two hours away, and made arrangements to meet half way, which meant we each would drive an hour meeting at a predetermined center. Having solved more than my share of, "If two trains leave the railroad stations from opposite ends, and one runs 60 mph while the other only 40mph where will they meet?" I always wanted to answer, "In a horrific head-on collision" but did the math and answered "Mile marker 36." For us Mile Marker X was Bel Air, a small town-let on the West side of Cumberland. There was a small strip mall and a little Pizza Place name of DaVinci's. We paid the Park and Diner crew with a $6.00 tip, and headed West arriving in Bel Air at my predicted time coordinate five minutes early (9:55).

I parked and walked in DaVinci's and asked if Leonardo was available, if not the manager would do. I told him we were in transit and broke down and had to rent a Cargo Van to get here at 79 cents a mile so buy wife was meeting me half way to save 120 miles and $100 could I park the Van in his lot over the weekend. He assured me this would be all right and showed me where to park it. By the time we walked back out into the parking lot to move the Van, Coletta rolled in and we off-loaded the van into our truck , baskets, suitcases, brief cases, etc. and headed to the lake.

Home at Last Home at Last

We made it to the lake house around 11:00, nine hours instead of our usual four, but made it just the same. We picked up the Van on the way home in our convoy of me in the Van, Coletta driving our Jag which I stored at the lake house for the winter, and Sade in the Tacoma. It was her first time driving all the way from Lake House to Our House on the Eastern Shore, and she did fine. She was also a great team member in our break down, calm and helping make rational decisions about next steps. Dad was really proud of his gal.

Of course Coletta lobbied for me to, "GET RID OF ALL THOSE OLD CARS!" and though there are moments when I am ready to find the nearest boat ramp to drive one of my "girls" to Davy Jone's Locker, once they are fixed and ready to roll, my 42 year old 280 Z, 26 year old Stealth, and 20 year old Jag XK8, well, they're like that old pair of shoes that you just can't throw out, just a little more costly to maintain.

Hope you enjoyed this latest Chapter of "On the Road with the Frankster." Never, ever a dull moment....


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